Posts tagged ‘GaComputes’
I gave the last GVU Brown Bag seminar of the academic year. Video is available at the link below.
Speaker: Mark Guzdial
Title: What We Know About Teaching Computer Science (“What does Guzdial do, Anyway?”)
We have known for over 30 years that learning to program is surprisingly hard. A series of international studies have shown remarkably little success in teaching programming. In my group, we have been developing approaches to improve learning about computing, by improving retention through relevance and by teaching in problem domain context. Our classes and studies have utilized computer-supported collaborative learning, so we explore learning on-line as well as in-classroom. We have learned how anchored collaboration can lead to longer on-topic discussions, but how perceptions of course culture can dramatically inhibit discussion. We have shown that well-designed on-line activities can lead to better learning at reduced cost (including time costs for the student and instructor). We are currently developing an ebook for learning computer science by high school teachers where we are trying to integrate these lessons for a new audience.
I’ll be traveling to Denmark with Barbara Ericson on May 10 to attend a conference at Aarhus University on their new computer science curriculum. Michael Caspersen invited us out. Simon Peyton-Jones of the Computing At Schools effort in the United Kingdom will be speaking as well. I’m copy-pasting the program (translated from Danish) to give you a sense of what it’s all about. It’s an exciting opportunity, and I’m looking forward to learning more about the efforts to move computing into primary and secondary education in Denmark and the UK.
The purpose of the conference is to establish support for our efforts by raising political awareness at all levels of decision making in our society related to teaching computing in school (parliament, regional and city councils, high school principals, high school teachers, deans, chairs and professors in computing departments, IT organizations, journalists, etc.).
09.30 Registration and coffee
- exhibition of student projects opens
- Peter Hesseldahl (moderator)
10.15 Digital literacy: creative and critical innovation — three perspectives
- Michael: Insight and vision through computing
- Jacob (high school teacher): Computing — a creative, critical and constructive subject
- Susanne: Why does society need digital literacy?
11.45 Digital literacy in an international perspective
- Mark: Why everyone will need digital literacy in their life
- Simon: Digital literady: Why every child should learn computing from primary school onwards
13.15 Panel: On the importance of digital literacy for high school students
- Christine Antorini, Minister of Children and Education
- Morten Østergaard, Minister of Science, Innovation and Higher Education
- Morten Bangsgaard, CEO, The Danish IT Industry Association (ITB)
- Anne Frausing, Principal and representative for the High School Principal’s Association
- Gitte Møldrup, Managing Director, IT-VEST — Networking Universities
15.00 Simon: Computing at School: How the UK is radically reshaping its curriculum for the 21st century
15.25 Mark: CS10K: Providing access to computing education across the US
16.00 End of plenary session
16.30 Exhibition of student projects ends
I had posted this blog piece back in January, but then was asked to take it down. There were concerns that the data were not anonymized enough to guarantee participant anonymity. Tom McKlin did a great job of working with the Human Subjects Review board here at Georgia Tech, to figure out a set of data that would be useful to other computing education researchers, but would guarantee participant anonymity (to the extent feasible). Here’s our newly approved data set.
Our external evaluators (The Findings Group) has just produced the roll-up analysis for all the GaComputes related summer camps from Summer 2012. These include camps offered at Georgia Tech, and those offere elsewhere in the state, started by GaComputes seed grants (as described in the 2011 SIGCSE paper that I blogged about). The results are strong:
- Over 1,000 K-12 students participated statewide.
- The camps were even more effective with women than men.
- There was a statistically significant improvement in content knowledge for Scratch, Alice, and App Inventor, across genders, ethnic groups, and grade levels.
- “The computing camps were particularly effective at increasing students’ intent to pursue additional computing, self‐efficacy in doing computing, and sense of belonging in computing.”
- “Minority students reported significantly more growth in their intent to persist in computing than majority students.”
The Findings Group had a particularly interesting proposal for the Computing Education Research community. They are making all the survey data from all the camps freely available, in an anonymous form. They have a sense that there is more to learn from these data. It’s a lot of students, and there’s a lot to explore there in terms of motivation, engagement, and learning.
If you play with these data, do let us know what you learn!
What is the current state of high school computer science professional development? The results of the UChicago Landscape Study
I am at the meeting in Portland of all the awardees from the NSF programs in Broadening Participation in Computing (BPC-A, like ECEP), Computing Education in the 21st Century (CE21, like our CSLearning4U project), and all the funded projects related to CS10K, sponsored by NCWIT.
You may recall that I invited people to participate in the Landscape Study on the capacity of our computing community’s professional development efforts. The results of that survey are being presented here at this meeting, and a summary is available at the URL below.
I find the results a little depressing. The folks at UChicago who do the study compare us to professional development in Science or Mathematics, and we don’t much look like that. We have such a long way to go.
What is the current state of high school computer science professional development?
THIS STRAND OF WORK FOCUSED ON DESCRIBING THE CURRENT PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT OPPORTUNITIES
that are available for high school computer science (CS) teachers. The primary data collection for this strand took place through a survey administered to providers of high school computer science teacher professional development (PD).
Through a five-year, $6.24 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of Massachusetts Amherst will form a partnership to further grow the pipeline of students in U.S. computer science programs and broaden participation in this fast-growing field. The new Expanding Computing Education Pathways (ECEP) Alliance will extend best practices and seek to duplicate state-level successes in developing K-12 and post-secondary curriculum, enhancing teacher training, and conducting hands-on student workshops and other programs.
Computer science remains one of the fastest growing fields, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasting almost 20 percent increases in computing-related jobs by 2020. While myriad efforts at the national, state and local levels have contributed to four years of sustained growth in undergraduate computer science programs, accelerated growth and diversification remains critical to cultivating the next generation of technology industry leaders.
“Computing is the world’s newest great science. Yet, even though enrollments in U.S. computer science programs are on a four-year rise, it’s still not enough to satisfy the workforce demands of a technology-driven global economy,” said Mark Guzdial, professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Interactive Computing and ECEP co-lead. “This new collaboration will drive the discipline forward, enabling states to replicate recent successes in Georgia and Massachusetts that enhanced computing education, grew the pipeline of interested students, and facilitated systemic change to the educational system.”
ECEP builds on five years of work by Georgia Tech’s Georgia Computes! program and UMass Amherst’s Commonwealth Alliance for Information Technology Education (CAITE). In Georgia, Georgia Computes! introduced thousands of middle and high school students to computing through workshops, summer camps and partnerships with the Girl Scouts and other organizations. As a result, the number of students taking the AP Computer Science exam doubled from 2007 to 2011, with even higher growth rates among women and underrepresented minority groups. In addition, more than 500 teachers from 312 schools in 20 states have taken one or more training workshops as part of the Georgia Computes! program.
“Georgia Tech has a legacy of creating, implementing and disseminating computing educational approaches that introduce computing in ways that are creative, social and interesting, such as creating stories, art, music and games by writing computer programs,” said Barbara Ericson, director of Computing Outreach in the Georgia Tech College of Computing, and co-PI for ECEP. “Through this new partnership with CAITE, we can further expand our efforts and have a tremendous impact on computing pipelines across the nation.”
In Massachusetts, CAITE helped bolster enrollments in community-college computer science programs by 64 percent over five years, and facilitated 78 percent growth in programs that facilitated CS student transfers from two to four-year universities. CAITE also reached more than 21,000 students and 2,100 educators through more than 350 computing events, including robot-building activity days for middle school girls and professional development workshops for computer science teachers and faculty.
The first state partners for ECEP will be California and South Carolina, chosen because they have the population, institutions, workforce demands and individuals or organizations ready to work on computer science education reform.
Working in conjunction with industry and government associations, ECEP will assist and advise these and future partner states in running 4th-12th grade student summer camps, improving transfer from two- to four-year institutions, enhancing computing curricula, conducting effective student outreach, and more.
Barbara has been facing a challenge in dealing with the State of Georgia lately that could impact other states. I offered my blog as a forum for raising the issues more broadly.
We have a real need in Georgia for a certification exam for high school students that is similar to the AP CS A exam in content and price, but is industry-based. Georgia is pushing career pathways and wants to have each student who completes a pathway take some type of exam where they can earn an industry certification. They claim this is due to the Perkins legislation that passed in 2006.
The purpose of the Perkins legislation is to develop students for “high skill, high wage, or high demand occupations in current or emerging professions” which certainly matches computing jobs. It is also intended to “integrate rigorous and challenging academic and career and technical instruction, and link secondary education and postsecondary education for participating career and technical education students”. It goes on to say that the goal is “designed to provide students with a non-duplicative sequence of progressive achievement leading to technical skill proficiency, a credential, a certificate, or a degree.” Since students can receive academic credit for the the Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science (CS) A exam from postsecondary institutions, the AP CS A exam should count as leading to a degree.
In Georgia, we have created a computing pathway which has 3 courses: Computing in the Modern World, Beginning Programming, and Intermediate Programming. The committee that created the computing courses had recommended that that pathway end with AP CS A instead of Intermediate Programming, and that the students pass the AP CS A exam to prove that they have learned the material. But, Georgia won’t allow the AP exam to be used as an end of pathway exam. I recommended the Oracle Java associate exam, but it is $300 and that is just too expensive. The AP exam is $89. Georgia has picked a Skills USA computer programming exam (see description here) that covers Java, C++, and Visual Basic. That exam doesn’t match the standards in the pathway courses, and we don’t want the teachers to have to teach 3 different languages. We are having a hard enough time getting them up to speed on Java, since most have no computer science background. The Career and Technical Education Department in Georgia thinks it is preparing kids for programming jobs right out of high school, which is not realistic. Students will need to at least an associates degree if they want a career in computing.
Georgia is poised to force every rising 9th grader to pick a career pathway. They are currently thinking about changing our computing courses to match the Skills USA test, since they can’t find a cheaper test that gives industry certification in Java. This is a huge problem. We have been working for years to improve computing in Georgia, and this would reverse many of our gains. We have introduced interesting and engaging courses using Scratch, Alice, Media Computation in Java, CS Unplugged, Greenfoot and App Inventor. Teachers would have to go back to boring, cookbook programming to get through 3 languages in 3 courses.
The Georgia DOE says is not going to change to allow an AP exam as an end of pathway exam. They claim they can’t since their efforts are part of the Race to the Top grant that Georgia won. They interpreted the Perkins legislation to mean that students must earn an industry certification. Other states may also use this same narrow interpretation and could end up in the same situation. This could be a major road block to the National Science Foundation’s plan to prepare 10,000 teachers (CS10K) to teach the new AP CS Principles course by 2016.
I recommend that Oracle create a new certificate only for high school students that is based on the AP CS A exam material and costs about $89. It could be a subset of the Java Associate material that matches the AP CS A material (extra topics to remove are: Java Development Fundamentals, Java Platforms and Integration Technologies, Client Technologies, Server Technologies).
Nice piece with how-to lessons from Barb, based on her Grace Hopper talk.
From advocacy to action. In the previous session I attended at #ghc12, Are we there yet: education & innovation for women & girls?, I heard a clarion call for moving from advocacy to action. In this session, Barbara Ericson, newly minted A. Richard Newton Educator award winner, answers the question – how? First, I think it is interesting that she is a women who did not start out in education, but comes from industry. She also didn’t start out to pursue computing as a career, horses and therefore becoming a veterinarian was her passion. As with many women of my generation, she stumbled unto computer science in college and she also remembers that in the “early days” it was not such a male-dominated field. Somewhere along her journey, she became passionate about addressing the gender equity issues that arose. Barbara is a great role model for the rest of us that are also passionate about this issue and want to take action.
IEEE Computer Society does good videos. They did a nice video at the Awards Ceremony, and now, they’ve put together a follow-up video with footage from interviews that they did after the Awards Ceremony. I always find it painful to watch myself being interviewed in a video, but I like how they got what’s important about Media Computation and Georgia Computes in this piece. You always try to get some of the important stuff into an interview, but the stuff you thought was most important usually ends up on the cutting room floor. Here, they got what I thought were the important bits.
Updated August 22: See note at bottom
We spent a significant amount of time this summer discussing with NSF our proposal to create an alliance around Expanding Computing Education Pathways (ECEP). One of the issues that we got pressed on was how to not just improve the numbers of women and members of under-represented minorities entering computer science, but to improve the quality of their learning and of their performance on metrics like the Advanced Placement Computer Science exam. Barbara Ericson started digging into the AP CS data at the College Board site, and found some pretty amazing things. I’m helping with some of the statistics (using my new “Computational Freakonomics” knowledge). We’re not sure what we’re going to do with this yet (SIGCSE paper, perhaps?), but Barb agreed that I could share some of the stats with you. The results in this post are Barb’s analysis of the AP CS results from 2006-2011, the years in which “Georgia Computes!” and CAITE were both in existence.
Nationally, here are the pass rates per year. The gap from the blue line at top and the red line below is explained by the gender gap. In 2011, the pass rate was 63.7% overall, 57.6% for females. The even larger gap from those two lines down to the rest is the race/ethnicity gap: 31.7% for Blacks, and 37.2% for Hispanics in 2011. I didn’t expect this: Hispanic females do statistically significantly better than Black females at passing the AP CS over this time frame (t-test, one-tailed, p=.01). (I’m using “Black” because that’s the demographic category that the College Board gives us. We are collapsing “Mexican American,” “Other Hispanic,” and “Puerto Rican” into the “Hispanic” category.) There’s still a big gap between the orange Hispanic line (37.2% in 2011) and the light blue Hispanic females line (25% in 2011).
While Hispanics are doing better than Blacks on AP CS, I was still surprised at this: No Hispanic female has scored a passing grade (3, 4, or 5) on the AP CS test in Georgia, Michigan, Indiana, South Carolina, or Alabama in the last six years. Only one Hispanic female has passed in Massachusetts in the same time frame. Why these states? ECEP is starting from Georgia and Massachusetts, next involving California and South Carolina, and we want to compare to states of similar size or similarly sized minority populations. We haven’t looked at all 50 states — the College Board doesn’t make it easy to grab these numbers.
The Black pass rate is quite a bit smaller than the Hispanic, in part because the participation rate is so low. Michigan has 1.4 million Blacks (out of 9.8 million overall population, so 14% Black), but only 2 Black men have passed the AP CS in the last six years. In 2011, 389 students took the AP CS in Michigan, only 2 of whom were Black. Only one Black female has even taken the AP CS in Michigan in the last six years. (No, she didn’t get a passing grade.)
Considering the population of the state is really important when considering these numbers. Last year, Georgia had 884 people take the AP CS Level A test (the most ever), 79 of whom were Black (about 9%). 17 passed. for a 21.5% pass rate. In contrast, California had a 51.7% pass rate among Black test-takers, 15 of the 29 test takers. That’s 29 test-takers out of 3101 AP CS Level A tests in California (0.9%)! California has an enormous test-taking population, but few Blacks and relatively few Hispanics (230 Hispanic test takers (49 female) out of the 3101 overall test takers). California has 37.6 million people, and 2.2 million Blacks (5.8%). Georgia has 9.8 million people, 2.9 million Blacks (30%). Bottomline: Georgia had many more Black test-takers than California, with a similarly-sized Black population. Georgia’s test-taking numbers aren’t representative of the population distribution overall (9% vs. 30%), but California’s are even more out-of-whack (0.9% vs. 5.8%).
Barb’s still digging into the numbers (e.g., to compare regionally, as well as by similarly sized). If we get ECEP, this is the first step — to know where we are, so we can measure how we do.
Updated August 22: When I wrote this up, I didn’t realize that Barb had created several datasets. She has data back into the 1990′s, but the dataset she gave me was just 2006-2011, the years in which our NSF BPC Alliances existed. So my claims of “ever” in the original post were too strong. We don’t know that the claims are wrong, but we haven’t actually checked back further than 2006 yet. My sincere apologies for mis-stating the scope of my claims! I’m glad that we discovered this problem when it’s just a blog post, not a paper submitted for publication. I’ve updated the text of the post to reflect the claims that I can actually make.
One of the biggest final efforts in “Georgia Computes!” has been trying to get a measure of the whole state’s CS1/CS2 population. Who are they? Where did they come from? What influenced their decision to take a CS course? Did “Georgia Computes!” have any influence on them? Our third ICER2012 paper (available here) documents our effort to answer those questions.
Of the 35 colleges and universities in Georgia, 29 offer computer science coursework, and 19 participated in our statewide survey. (Why only 19 or 29? Great question, and worthy of another study in itself.) In total, 1,434 introductory computer science students (in either a first or second semester course, but all in the same semester without duplication of students) completed the survey. Our analysis had three parts:
- General description of who’s taking CS and why;
- An attempt to answer the question, “Did Georgia Computes have an effect?”
- Regression analysis on what variables impact decisions to pursue computing.
The general description required a GT vs. non-GT lens. 673 of the students in the survey came from Georgia Tech, and most of those were not CS majors, since GT requires everyone to take CS1. When GT is included, the pool is 31% female, but without GT, it’s only 25% female. Most of the pool had no interest in CS in middle or high school, but the percent expressing interest rises dramatically when you take GT out (since there are so many non-majors being forced to take CS at GT). Having some middle school out-of-school computing experience is pretty much the same with GT (57%) or without GT (56%) which is somewhat surprising. Only 56% of students who ended up as CS majors (not at GT) did anything with CS in middle school? Even larger percentage 57% of students (at GT, thus part of the “required” and “not likely to be CS majors” cohort) had some middle school CS, but did not choose a CS major? One explanation might be that GT is a prestigious school and the kids who go there (CS majors or not) had more out-of-school experiences in general.
We did ask students that if they were NOT a computing major, what were the reasons? Here were the top three answers:
- I don’t want to do the kind of work that a computing major/minor leads to, 30%.
- I don’t enjoy computing courses, 20%.
- I don’t think I belong in computing (don’t fit the stereotype), 13%.
In general, GaComputes out-of-school activities were not mentioned by many students. Girl Scout events and summer camps are still too small in Georgia to touch a significant percentage of students who end up in CS. A big part of our analysis was figuring out if the students may have been influenced by a teacher who had professional development through Barbara’s Institute for Computing Education (ICE). We asked every student what high school they went to, then deciphered their scrawl, and figured out if we had an ICE teacher there. (We didn’t try to figure out if the student actually interacted with that teacher.) Yes, in general, schools that have ICE teachers do produce more women in our CS1/CS2 data set and more under-represented minorities (in some categories), but neither is a significant difference. Right direction, not not enough to make a strong claim.
Finally, we looked at what influenced student interest in pursuing computing career, disaggregated by gender and race/ethnicity. There were several statistically significant differences that we noted, like men are more interested in computer games and programming than women, and women are more interested in using computing to help people or society. These aren’t new, but at the size and scope of the survey, it’s an important replication. Most interesting is the mediation analysis that Tom McKlin and Shelly Engelman did. They found that women and under-represented minorities are statistically more influenced by encouragement and a sense of belonging than by a sense of ability, compared to men and white/Asian groups, with outcome variables of (a) satisfaction in choosing to study computing, (b) likelihood in completing a computing major/minor, and (c) likelihood of pursuing a career in computing. Again, these are expected results, but it’s useful to get a large, broad replication.
As I said before, we’re getting to the end of “Georgia Computes!” This was one of our last big analysis efforts. It’s really hard to do these kinds of studies (e.g., each of those school that did not participate still got our time and effort in trying to convince them, then there’s the data cleaning and analysis and…). I’m glad that we got this snapshot, but wish that we got it at an even larger scale and more regularly. That would be useful for us to use as a yardstick over time.
(NSF BPC funded “Georgia Computes!”. All the claims and opinions here are mine and my colleagues’, not necessarily those of any of the funders.)
“Georgia Computes!” entered its “one year no-cost extension” stage last September — that means that we can tidy things up, write the last papers, do the last analyses, before all work (and all funding) ends this September. ”Georgia Computes!” has been a statewide alliance, funded by the NSF’s Broadening Participation in Computing program. Our goal was to improve the quality of computing education and broaden participation in computing across the whole state. We started in 2006. Take a look at our external evaluator’s final report on “Georgia Computes!” and you’ll see that we still have lots of stories to tell, many of which haven’t yet made it to this blog, let alone to conference and journal publications.
To tie a bow on “Georgia Computes!” we held a poster session and reverse site visit at NSF in Arlington, Virginia yesterday. We and CAITE (Commonwealth Alliance for IT Education, the other statewide NSF BPC Alliance based in Massachusetts) brought 40 people and 12 posters to put on a show of the great work that has gone in our Alliances. You can see PDF’s of all the posters (watch out — 10Mb PDF), or just look at the list of posters. This poster session was a huge effort. We sent to NSF 40 people, from Massachusetts and Georgia, from Girl Scouts to high school teachers to community college vice presidents and to CS/CIS department chairs. We hauled out robots and music software, laptops and reprints of papers.
The NSF program managers in charge of our projects were happy with the turnout. We had fewer people show up than I had hoped for, but I guess it was more significant who showed up than how many. The poster session was started by Cynthia Dion-Schwarz, the deputy AD for CISE (that is, she’s the second-in-command for all CS-related funding at NSF). The deputy director for all of NSF, Cora Marrett, came down with a reporter and a photographer. We were thrilled when NSF asked if they could keep three of the posters, to show off internally.
The purpose of our visit wasn’t just the poster session, though. Both CAITE and GaComputes are coming to an end. The BPC Alliances program will no longer fund regional alliances. However, all changes to formal education pathways (e.g., public policy, articulation agreements, high school curricula) occur at the regional level. So CAITE and GaComputes are proposing a merger to create a national resource for regional change. We have proposed creation of the Expanding Computing Education Pathways (ECEP) Alliance, which will be a service organization to support states that want to make computing education reforms in their state, with professional development, access to an experts bureau, and funding. I shouldn’t say too much about a proposal currently under review at NSF (we submitted it in January — the largest and most complex proposal I’ve ever been part of), but this much was said publicly at the poster session yesterday. 11 of us were there for what’s called a “Reverse Site Visit.” A review team attended the poster session, listened to us explain our proposal (for some five hours), and is offering (and will offer, in a formal report) comments and critique on the effort, past and proposed.
It was a really long day, and it was the culmination of literally months of work. I am so grateful to all the poster presenters who flew to DC, to those who came to view the posters, to the reviewers and NSF program managers, and to the incredibly hard-working people at Georgia Tech and U. Mass-Amherst who pulled all of this together. We’ll know this summer if we get to take the next steps with ECEP. In any case, it’s been a great run with “Georgia Computes!”
This op-ed from the President of Bryn-Mawr is about all kinds of STEM, but the discussed example is a computer science student. I got the chance to visit Bryn-Mawr recently and really enjoyed it. The students are sincerely excited about what they’re studying, far more than most students I see at Georgia Tech. What’s the role of being a single-gender school in that? I also visited at Haverford the same week, and found similar excitement. Is it the liberal arts school culture, the small school culture, or the single-gender school?
When I asked Barb about this, she reminded me of the findings from our Georgia Computes workshops. The mixes of gender matters. For example, if a female is leading a mixed gender workshop, the boys change their attitudes about whether girls can do programming — but not if a male leads the workshop. She says that she finds that the girls enjoy the robot workshops more when the boys aren’t there, because if the boys are there, they hog the robots and the girls don’t get a chance. Girl Scouts and Girls Inc are better settings for robot workshops for girls than are mixed-gender summer camps.
At Bryn Mawr we want to engage all types of students in STEM coursework and believe they all can succeed. Offering students a variety of entry points into the sciences allows those who arrive at college with advanced preparation to enroll in higher-level courses that immediately challenge them, while students who have had negative prior experiences in STEM coursework or poor preparation can take and enjoy courses at various points in the introductory level.
An institution can also use innovative pedagogy that teaches the applications of science to attract more students to STEM subjects. For example, in introductory courses in computer science at Bryn Mawr, students apply CS principles to create graphic design projects. Across the sciences, our lab exercises focus on problem-solving rather than the execution and replication of a series of instructions.
I’m eager to hear the discussion about Betsy DiSalvo and Amy Bruckman’s paper to appear in the August CACM (linked below). The paper is on the Glitch project that I’ve talked about here. Betsy and Amy are addressing a problem that many working in Broadening Participation in Computing are facing, and that we’ve had with Georgia Computes! We’ve had dramatic success in drawing women and Hispanic students into computer science — and we’ve barely budged the African-American numbers. Why? Betsy’s results suggest that GaComputes initiatives play to students’ interests, but to really get students to dig into CS, we need to play to their values. Glitch has been successful because they’ve figured out what African-American teen men in Atlanta most value, and then play to those values. I’d bet that Betsy would say that the video games in Glitch aren’t why she’s had so much success — that’s an interest. It’s because she pays them and they’re training to be game-testers which is a real job. Those are values, beyond just interests. They start their paper with a bold claim:
Computer science is not that difficult but wanting to learn it is.
I see from the CSTA “Running on Empty” report that Georgia allows Computer Science courses to count as Science credit towards high school graduation. What was the impetus behind this decision? What impact did it have on local school districts? Was it / has it been well received? Has it been successful?
I got this question in an email, and thought it was an interesting lead for a blog post.
Georgia only counts AP CS towards high school graduation, no other computer science classes. It counts as a science, because the math lobby in Georgia is very strong. I had a conversation with someone from the Mathematics Division in the Georgia Department of Education about a proposal (from Kennesaw State University here in Georgia) to count AP CS as a math class. She was convinced that if students took computer science in their senior year, instead of calculus, then they would have forgotten all their math by the time that they got to college. I did find out that students who took AP CS instead of Calculus for their fourth year math course did have a harder time getting into Georgia Tech — Colleges value Calculus very highly.
It wasn’t too much of a struggle to get AP CS to count in the first place, but it was a struggle getting it to continue to count. Barb Ericson is really the expert on how this all happened. She was involved in getting Georgia to make AP CS count towards high school graduation (and only AP CS). I was involved in helping her in getting it to count again after it went away.
CS in Georgia lies within the Career, Technical and Agricultural Education (CTAE) division of the State Department of Education. AP CS is CTAE’s only AP test. CTAE has been interested in AP CS growing because AP’s are a measure of prestige of a division. In order to get AP CS to grow, they have been willing to fund workshops to grow more AP CS teachers in the state. Maureen Biggers (now at Indiana) pitched the idea of us doing workshops to grow AP CS. That’s how Barb got involved in teaching teacher summer workshops (and now directs our Institute for Computing Education@Georgia Tech, and how the Java version of Media Computation was produced. CTAE was interested in making AP CS count towards high school graduation in order to get more students to take the class. Math said no (see previous comments on Calculus), but Science was willing, and thus, AP CS counted as a science in Georgia.
Then Barb got word one day from a teacher that AP CS no longer counted. She looked into it, and yes, the CTAE website now claimed that AP CS didn’t count. What happened?
Georgia has one public University System, with one Board of Regents. The Board of Regents had refined their standards for admission to the system, and worked with the Georgia Department of Education to make sure that what GaDoE required for graduation met what the BoR was requiring for admission. That makes sense — you want high school graduation requirement to match higher-education admission requirements. One of the particular areas of focus was the CTAE Division classes. There was some serious concern in both the BoR and GaDoE that some of those classes shouldn’t really count as a “Science” course for the “fourth science class requirement” of graduation and admissions. BoR decided that AP CS wouldn’t count anymore for admissions, and CTAE followed suit for graduation.
Fortunately for us, AP CS was never really sent out for full review by the BoR — the Committee simply decided it wouldn’t count. They were right. We wouldn’t have passed. Whether a course counted as a “Science” was determined by sending the syllabus and course requirements to Science professors around the state. ”Will this class prepare a high school student for your intro class?” Which Biology or Chemistry or Physics professors will say “Yes!” to that question, given the AP CS syllabus? Maybe a few, but only a few.
At our request, the BoR took AP CS back under review — and then changed their minds, without sending it out for review. To this day, I still don’t know how exactly it happened. The BoR committee simply decided that CS would count as either a Math or a Science for admission into the University System of Georgia. That was broader than the Department of Education was willing to go, but they did then say re-affirm that AP CS would count towards high school graduation, in fulfillment of one year of science requirement.
Has it been well received? Has it been successful? I’m not sure how to measure that. AP CS test-taking was at an all-time high in Georgia in 2010. The high school graduation requirement may have had something to do with that. Has it hurt students, in terms of a lack of preparation for College-level Science? I don’t know — I haven’t seen much evidence of that, but that isn’t to say that Georgia students’ Science performance is stellar. I believe that the requirement has helped with getting kids into AP CS, but I don’t know by how much.
How very sad. The Atlanta Journal Constitution has been covering the Governor’s report over the last two days with front page articles that cover nearly the whole page. Colleagues who work with Atlanta Public Schools (APS) had suggested to me that the obsessive focus on test scores might be behind the general unwillingness of APS to work with us on Georgia Computes! and Operation:Reboot. I didn’t really understand that — why would concern over test scores prevent a district from accepting free professional development for teachers and even free former-IT workers as computing teachers? It’s more understandable in light of the report. The concerns over test scores changed the whole culture of the school district. So sad for Beverly Hall, former superintendent of APS, who is being blamed for much of the culture change.
A culture of fear, intimidation and retaliation existed in the district, which led to a conspiracy of silence, he said in a prepared statement. “There will be consequences,” Mr. Deal said.That will certainly include dismissals, according to school board members and the interim superintendent, Erroll B. Davis Jr., and could possibly result in criminal charges.